What words pop in your mind when you hear ‘peatlands’? This was the opening question of our Peat Talk, a webinar held for celebrating the second year of World Peatlands Day this year. On June 15th, TJF organized this webinar titled “Peatland and Sustainability: What About Them?” for all – including those familiar with peatlands and who don’t. We invited one of our researchers, Zara; Sara Thornton from Leicester University and Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF); and Rainer Heufers from Center of Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS).
The participants’ answers to the opening question vary from: ‘wetlands’, ‘carbon’, ‘fires’, ‘restoration’, ‘mosquitos’, ‘sustainability’, ‘blessing’, to ‘never heard before.’ To accommodate this wide range of basic knowledge on peatlands, our webinar discussed this unique ecosystem in terms of its opportunities and challenges for supporting sustainability in local, regional, even global scopes.
The webinar opened with an outlook of peatlands situation in different regions. Sadly, negative news about peatland is more often heard, for example, the peat forest fire in Kalimantan that happens almost annually, becoming a global issue. In reality, good stories come from peatlands. Peatlands can look different from tropical to temperate climate countries, with each unique feature, not only from the environment but from the human living in it. Sara shared a lot of documentation on her works in different peatland regions – both in Europe and Kalimantan (Asia) along with the abundance of their ecosystem services, from biodiversity, carbon storage, to livelihood sources for locals.
Continuing the discussion, Zara talked about her experience facing the challenge of changing people’s mindset about peatlands utilization, which indeed needs to be done extra carefully. Rainer gave his opinion that represents the part of the public who are unfamiliar with peatlands, making them unaware of the sustainability issue in its situation.
The dialogue was fueled further by the participants’ questions who were curious about the cases on peatland regions management – ranging from agriculture, aquaculture, to tourism. In any case, sustainability is highlighted as a tricky aspect, since its definition is quite broad and all-encompassing. The human element definitely makes sustainability more complex. Combined with peatlands’ unique character, there is no ‘one size fits’ all to address the sustainability challenge in peatlands.
Nearing the end of this event, we organized a quiz to recap the discussion (congratulations to the winners). This event was then concluded with a simple takeaway: we can do so much more to support peatland ecosystems, at the very least changing the mindset that it’s not an ecosystem with challenges, but one full of opportunities!